Checketts, Vedo ready to go for Gauchos

Starting pitcher Matt Vedo does a TV interview at Tuesday's media day. (Presidio Sports Photo)

Friday is a beginning of many things for UCSB’s baseball team.

On top of it being the season-opener for the Gauchos, it’s also the debut of new head coach Andrew Checketts and 12 freshmen that are on the roster. And it will be Matt Vedo’s first opening-day start at UCSB.

“I’m very excited to have the opener,” Vedo said on Tuesday. “Been preparing all Fall for it, been visualizing all week about pitching against Oregon State.”

Friday’s first pitch against Oregon State is at 2 p.m. The Beavers and Gauchos will meet four-times in a weekend series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

Vedo is one of five pitchers returning from last year’s team that finished with a combined ERA of 3.65, which was UCSB’s lowest team ERA since 1984. Checketts comes in as Oregon’s former pitching coach and has worked extensively with his arms.

“(Checkett’s) program has helped all of us pitchers with velocity, with command, with focus,” Vedo said.

The senior right-hander has been working on establishing an effective change-up.

“I finished strong last year and I’d like to start strong this year, and just continue that throughout the season,” Vedo said. “I’ve been working on my changeup a lot thanks to Checketts.  Learning to throw it for a strike, throwing it down, working that off my fastball. It’s a huge pitch being able to throw.”

Offensively the Gauchos lost all-conference batters Mark Haddow and Sean Williams. Returning are all-conference honorable mentions Ryan Palermo and Steven Moon. Brandon Trinkwon and Brett Vertigan also figure to be fixtures in the batting order.

“Honestly, we’re really excited out here,” Palermo said. “We’ve put in a ton of work this offseason and we feel like we’re really well prepared.”

UCSB has been picked by media members to finish sixth in the Big West Conference this season and Checketts is using it as motivation for the team.

“It’s on the board right now,” he explained. “I saw it when it came out, and showed it to the guys and said that’s what people think of us. It’s our job to play with a chip on our shoulders.”

The Gauchos begin Big West play in a weekend series with UC Riverside on March 30. In between Oregon State and the conference opener, UCSB faces series with San Jose State, Loyola Marymount, University of Reno-Nevada, Rhode Island, and University of San Francisco.

Cal State Fullerton was picked to win the Big West, followed by UC Irvine and Long Beach State.

Opening up against Oregon State is significant for Checketts, who pitched three years for the Beavers. Checketts went 11-1 in his senior season in 1998.

“It will my first opportunity to exchange lineups and be there at home plate,” Checketts said, joking that he might forget. “To be able to do that with my former coach should be pretty neat.”

UCSB will have a stiff test in its opening series with the Beavers, who went 41-19 last season and reached the Nashville Super Regional. Oregon State lost much of its starting pitching but returns its entire starting infield and last year’s Pac-10 saves leader in Tony Bryant.

UCSB also lost much of its pitching from last year and is still figuring out who is going to pitch when. After Vedo, Checketts called the rest of his weekend starters “TBA” on Tuesday at media day.

“I like our guys,” Checketts said of his bullpen. “They’ve developed and started to make some strides, and some adjustments. We’ve made some significant progress in the last four months.”

Season tickets are still available for one low price and every season ticket purchase will receive a $25 gift card to The Gauchos Shop or the new white-panel Sunday hat. Get your tickets by clicking here or calling 893-UCSB